Ultimately, we are all in pursuit of “finding” balance or “having” balance in our lives. So many people are torn between juggling heavy workloads, home responsibilities, spending enough time with their family members or managing relationships, that they hardly have time for gym, relaxation, self-improvement or hobbies – How do I find balance in my life?
It is therefore no surprise that more than 56% South Africans describe themselves as “super stressed.” And this statistic in neither balanced nor healthy. So, how do you find balance in your life?
The term “work-life balance” refers to the actions, decisions, and obligations that define the amount of time we will spend on work and on the rest of our life. In other words, how do we divide our time between work responsibilities and real life. Somewhere along the way, however, the idea of balance has become mistakenly synonymous with being able to do it all, have it all, and handle it all with a smile on your face! It seems that finding balance in your life is not that easy…
“Well, what if balance isn’t something you can have or find? What if, on the contrary, it is something you create – something that’s hidden within you?”
Maintaining balance can feel like an impossible task, and almost everybody will agree that trying to be great at everything and accomplish it all at once is just not possible. In our rush to “get it all done” at the office and at home, it’s easy to forget that as our stress levels spike, our productivity plummets. Stress can zap our concentration, make us irritable or depressed, and harm our personal and professional relationships.
Yes, we all have things we have to do. Many of us have to go to work, study or run a business. We also have to eat and sleep. We all have responsibilities and balance is all about uniting the “must dos” with the “need to dos” like building relationships, taking care of our physical and mental wellbeing, and letting the rest go without beating ourselves up about it.
Sadhguru, an Indian yogi and author, reminds us that:
“There is no such thing as work-life balance. It is all life. The balance has to be within you.”
Creating balance is a choice, it means that no matter what life throws at you, or what you do or don’t get done, you maintain an inner sense of peace – a calm in the midst of chaos.
Work-life balance means something different to every individual and the ability to find balance in your live will differ even for people in the same household. How do you then find balance in your life?
Here is a couple of tips to help you find the balance that’s right for you, either in your personal life or at work.
Finding personal balance:
1. Choose your battles
This is your new mantra – you can do anything, but you can’t do everything! Especially not everything at once. Prioritize what’s important and focus your energy on doing one thing at a time. Believe me, no one has it all together all the time (even Samantha, from the office, who gets to the gym each day and only eats organic food from her garden). So, cut yourself some slack.
2. Be your own biggest fan
We all have our moments of self-doubt, it’s part of being human, but how we speak to ourselves has a huge impact on what we believe to be true. Start every day by giving yourself a compliment! Even if you just tap yourself on the shoulder for getting out of bed! Sometimes it’s the small victories that give us a push towards bigger ones. Life is full of these small wins; we just have to be present enough to notice them. Celebrating our small successes can give us the motivation we need to keep going.
3. Put yourself first
You know how on an airplane the instructions tell you to put your own oxygen mask on first, before helping anyone else? It’s the same with life. We can’t be there for others if we aren’t in a good place ourselves. When we take care of ourselves, we are sending messages to our brains that sculpt our self-worth. Taking care of yourself mentally and physically should be non-negotiable. This can come in easy solutions such as taking along bath or just going for a 10 minute walk.
4. Welcome imperfections
Striving for perfection all the time is exhausting, while accepting imperfections can be freeing! Embrace the imperfections in yourself, in others, and the long list of things that are likely to go wrong today. Being imperfect is what makes you unique. Embrace your oddities and learn to laugh at your shortcomings.
5. Know when to say “no”
Life is busy and full of conflicting activities, but saying “yes” to everything is impossible and saying “yes” to more than we should do, can leave us burnt out and lacking the energy to focus on our main priorities. We all have a limited capacity for doing things. If you say “yes” to everything, then you will have to say “no” to things that might be really beneficial for you or things that can feed your soul. This is about being intentional and knowing what matters to you and focus your “yeses” there.
6. Embrace your uniqueness and that of others
We each have our own challenges and our own strengths. Comparing yourself to someone else blinds you from embracing what makes you special. Focus on what makes you unique. Do you make people laugh? Are you awesome at karaoke? Do you make a bomb pot roast? Celebrate the things that make you different. Besides, we guarantee that the person you are comparing yourself to has just as many insecurities as the rest of us. And don’t forget, we focus way more on what people think of us than what they actually do.
Finding work balance:
1. Accept that there is no ‘perfect’ work-life balance
When you hear “work-life balance,” you probably imagine having an extremely productive day at work, and leaving early to spend the other half of the day with friends and family. While this may seem ideal, it is not possible.
Don’t strive for the perfect schedule; strive for a realistic one. Some days, you might focus more on work, while other days you might have more time and energy to pursue your hobbies or spend time with your loved ones. Balance is achieved over time, not each day.
2. Find a job that you love
Although work is an expected societal norm, your career shouldn’t be restraining. If you hate what you do, you aren’t going to be happy, plain and simple. You don’t need to love every aspect of your job, but it needs to be exciting enough that you don’t dread getting out of bed every morning.
Monahan recommended finding a job that you are so passionate about you would do it for free. “If your job is draining you, and you are finding it difficult to do the things you love outside of work, something is wrong,”
3. Set boundaries and work hours
Set boundaries for yourself and your colleagues, to avoid burnout. When you leave the office, avoid thinking about upcoming projects or answering company emails. Stick to the work hours you set. Whether you work away from home or at home, it is important to determine when you will work and when you will stop working.
Ask for flexibility and notify your team members and your manager about boundaries beyond which you cannot be accessed because you are engaged in personal activities. This will help to ensure that they understand and respect your workplace limits and expectations.
4. Set manageable goals and priorities (and stick to them)
It is important that you implement time-management strategies, analysing your to-do list and cutting out tasks that have little to no value.
Pay attention to when you are most productive at work and block that time off for your most important work-related activities. Avoid checking your emails and phone every few minutes, as those are major time-wasting tasks that derail your attention and productivity. Structuring your day can increase productivity at work, which can result in more free time to relax outside of work.
5. Tune in
Listen to your favourite music at work to foster concentration, reduce stress and anxiety, and stimulate creativity. Studies dating back more than 30 years show the benefits of music in everyday life, including lowered blood pressure. Be sure to wear headphones on the job, and then pump up the volume—and your productivity.
Balanced women have a good team backing them up – whether it’s a spouse, a friend, a trusted colleague – they are not afraid to rely on others. Together people are stronger and hold each other accountable. In a caring environment people will lift each other up when they fall, they look out for each other because they understand that this thing called life is not meant to be done alone.
Creating a balanced life means making time for the things you have to do, as well as the things you want to do. You have the power to create harmony between your responsibilities and finding time daily to do things that bring you pleasure, personal fulfilment, and rejuvenation.
Read more about the Real Life editor here.